hunger In the darkness, I heard a cry.
In my animal brain it registered as a most desperate, sorrowful sound, though its timbre was not one I immediately recognized. Taking a sip of my Dunkin Donuts coffee out of a styrofoam cup, my ears feel plastered to the sound in the distance, brain running through calculations, trying to discern the source. There was something familiar yet eerie about the sound. The coffee feels too hot, too stimulating in the presence of this new input. There are more cries. A chorus now. As my mind opens, I realize it is the sound of animals, here in town. What kind of animal? Suddenly I realize I am listening to cows. Cows in the city? What are they doing here? It is cows alright - but not the kind of sound I am used to hearing from them. Sometimes I can hear the emotions in a person's voice, the words in an animal's noises, the thoughts in their eyes. Most of the time, this is a blessing. On a night like this, it is hell on earth. At first I hope that maybe there is a farm somewhere and that the cows are just mooing at a passing pedestrian, or that a cow is giving birth. But I know deep down what I will find. I force myself to follow the sound. I will not permit myself to run from this Truth. I find what I expected to find. A lone truck, parked under a lonely parking lot security light. In the back, fuzzy black ears, pink noses, shiny black eyes. Their faces move toward me, the crying is intense. I open my mind. "Help...help...help..." While animals do not speak English, there is no mistaking the message. As an added cruelty, the place the driver decided to have his midnight snack was Burger King. I force myself to face them for awhile. I force myself to realize where they are going and the fact that I can tell that every one of them know it. I want to scream, to cry, to hide from the sweet, black shining eyes who never did anything but want to be born, walk on green grass, mate, feel the wind against their bovine skin. We view that fate as somehow so much less than our own. They only want to be what they were born to be. We alter that fate every single day. I let them know in my spirit that I was thinking of them as I drove away. Their cries seemed to reach out to me as my form grew smaller and smaller, a last hope shattered in their collective mind. For I am sure that tonight I was the only living creature that showed them any conscious thought, let alone pity. As I drifted off to sleep, I imagined that they were going to a better place, a big farm in the middle of the land with plenty of green hills, blue sky, big puffy white clouds, with nothing to do but just exist and feel happy to be alive. But I know full well during the night while I was asleep, these creatures were paraded harshly into a cold torture chamber, a long production line where they get to watch in terror every friend get brutally murdered, screaming, one after one after one until it came to them, their fields of green drowned out in the warm red blood of a cold kill, unceremonious, no thought or apology given to their living form, only seen for the use we have for them, and that is all. You would think something like this would make me turn into a vegetarian. But I know myself far too well. For I am a hypocrite. A few days from now, all this will be forgotten. I will look at a menu. I will decide that a cheeseburger would just hit the spot. And somewhere, mid-bite, I will see the black, shining eyes staring out from the back of the truck. I will start to put my sandwich down - and then the aroma and the hunger will seduce me, the way it always does, and I will slowly put the sandwich back to my lips. And I will push the cries, the shining eyes, the pleas out of my mind, while I take bite after bite after steaming bite. Some say Money is the root of all Evil. But I hold that it is Hunger. NEL 6/21/06